The importance of self-discovery: why taking a gap year is a good idea

taking a gap year

Today, future college or university students have an option that was once considered a kind of privilege. That is, to take a gap year before entering a new educational institution and starting to pursue a profession. A gap year is a time when you can reflect on your interests, wishes, and aspirations in life to make a weighted decision about the major you want to obtain or just take a break from deadlines and demands to get a completely fresh start in college. It works very simply: you just do not apply to any institution when you graduate from high school and spend the year on whatever you like. But what is so good about the gap year, and is it equivalent to laziness? How can you enjoy it and use it productively at the same time? Let’s find out.

The problem with the choice

The diversity of career choices was not always as abundant as it is today. People used to only see a handful of directions they could choose from, so it was easier to make a decision. Today, progress and technology have created a huge variety of career opportunities. Plus, some professions are not as relevant and prestigious as they used to be. So, the choice of possible futures isn’t obvious anymore. Many young people graduate from high school with no idea of what their future profession should be because they’re interested in several different fields that are not easily juxtaposed.

Finding what is right for you is an important step, and it is naturally hard when you have no time to breathe between your finals and the start of enrollment in colleges. Not all people were positive about their future professions since they were kids. For the undecided ones, taking a gap year is an opportunity to figure out what they like with no distractions, or to try doing something and check how they feel about it.

The anxiety about the choice

Making the final decision may not only be difficult, but can cause a lot of anxiety. The problem is that we usually view committing to one option as the rejection of everything else without knowing what might have happened if we had chosen a different path. It works both with regret about the past and future opportunities as well. If we’re hasty about the choice that will determine our entire future, we risk feeling that kind of regret a lot. We see it in movies, where the protagonist chooses what feels sensible over what feels right, and this kind of film usually analyzes the tragedy of a life steered by concerns about convenience. If you’re still unsure which door of opportunity to enter and which one to close, taking a gap year will help you to figure it out and eventually make the decision without any second thoughts. It is possible that you will surprise yourself and discover something completely new.

difficulties of choice

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You have more time to think

It’s not a secret that human life expectancy is high, even compared to that of the previous generation. That means you will have plenty of time to spend in your adulthood, and there is no need to hurry. Unlike the short breaks you will have between college years or the occasional weekends with no homework (there is going to be really few of them), you will have no time to reflect on what you really want. Besides, if you have enrolled in a college and then realize your major isn’t for you, you will lose a lot more time than just a gap year.

Boomers’ vs zoomers’ vision of the future

The invention of assembly line manufacturing not only made capitalism in America flourish, but also became  symbolic of the image of the world our parents became accustomed to. After school, there is higher education, and then a decent job and a family. This narrative worked well for Baby Boomers, as they were the ones who had invented it. It’s no wonder that parents commonly see their children’s narrative in the same way. However, current conditions allow young people to choose what they want, and there are many more options than just the ever-rolling assembly line. If you have never contemplated your career choices because your parents planned everything a long time ago, a gap year will allow you to break the circle and take a look at what you want to do from a detached point of view. You may find yourself fascinated by the career chosen by your parents and at peace with the future built on it, or, conversely, see that you’re into something completely different. In any case, this year will not be wasted.

The new adolescence

It is completely alright to feel uncertain when you’re a young adult or an adolescent. In fact, it is a tendency shared by many people of your age, and you don’t have to demand some mature decisiveness from yourself. The lifestyles of today society don’t challenge people to grow up faster, and, as a result, adolescence is now longer. Once, it used to last up to age 18, but now people up to 24 years old can be considered adolescents. What this means  for you is that you don’t have to know for sure what path to take in life. So, the thing that might help you decide is a gap year.

value of experience

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The value of experiences

How should you spend the gap year if you decide there is no need to hurry? The best way possible is to use this time for traveling. Not only will it enrich your life with experiences, but it will also sharpen your mind. When we’re inside the circuit of familiar routines, our brain does little work, as the neural paths for solving familiar problems are already there. When you are in an unknown environment, you have to learn and explore it anew. Scientists say we learn better and faster in unknown places, namely, outside our comfort zones. Even getting lost in a foreign town and making your way back or wandering along a street in your own city you have never been to before will make your brain work harder than usual and create new neural paths. As a result, you can become sharper and more creative, both in choosing your career and studying in college.

A gap year is not a vacation

If you decide to spend the gap year at home doing nothing, it won’t work. Moreover, the absence of occupation can make you depressed and reluctant to pursue any educational option after its over. To get the best out of this year, you need to try new things. It can be a tour somewhere, an unpaid internship, or a volunteering program. If you spend this year doing things you think you will like, you will know for sure whether it is worth your time and dedication in the future. It is a chance for you to meet new people and try something new before committing to it. In the end, this can be one of the best years of your young adulthood.


Finally, it is okay to take a break between high school and college, even if it takes an entire year. Taking a gap year is a great way for you to discover your own interests and make a mindful decision about your future. However, there is a lot that depends on you, as the more interesting the way you choose to spend it, the clearer you will see what you really want.

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Published by
Lauren Bradshaw
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Lauren started writing in 2003. Since then, she tried her hand in SEO and website copywriting, composing for blogs, and working as an academic writer. Her main interests lie in content marketing, developing communication skills, and blogging.